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The monastery of Cluny
It's easy to see why artists and artisans, poets and writers are attracted to the countryside around the town of Cluny which is dotted with little Romanesque churches, picturesque villages and river valleys. It is a gentle and unhurried pace as it was all those years ago when a handful of monks chose to set up the monastery in the Grosne valley. The peaches and cream walls of the old buildings, with their coloured shutters, give the town a Mediterranean touch.
The monastery of Cluny was once the greatest power in Europe, controlling over 10,000 monks from Poland to Scotland. The abbey today is a ghost of the past - only one tenth of the gigantic cathedral remains. This was the first monastery in Burgundy, started by the Benedictine monks in 910AD. Over 1000 monks were in residence, large buildings had to be erected to house everyone and 40 farms produced the food.
The demise of this building is one of the architectural tragedies of history. Some damage was done during the French Revolution with the burning of the Church furnishings and wracking of the tombs, but it was later that the town auctioned it off to Bâtonnard and associates of Mâcon who sold it off in bits for building materials using copious explosives to topple the 700 year old walls.
The town of Cluny has grown up around the remains. The Hotel de Bourgogne has been built right on top of the abbey in fact and you can visit some of the 18th century cellars by wine tasting at Le Cellier del’Abbaye, best entered from Rue 11 Août 1944. Rue Lamartine has attractive shops, including the chocolate maker Germain, and there are plenty of little restaurants with terraces to soak up the atmosphere.
Cluny is famous for its National Stud Farm with thoroughbred stallions for breeding racing stock. Arab and French horses including Percherons, Comtois and Auxois can all be viewed. There are guided tours daily from April to September in the afternoons (closed Mondays), and in February and March on Wed and Fri at 14.00.
During the summer concerts are staged at the Abbey and the work of prominent artists is on show at the Ecuries de Saint-Hugues.
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Pam Elson ©burgundytoday.com